8 - 14, 2010

Controversies are staple diet of sports. Without them, the sports would not grow and turn tasteless. Who would like to watch a clean game unless it has some sprinkling of controversies: a wrong decision from the referee, players grappling with each other and indulging in exchange of hot words?

Among all the outdoor games, cricket has the tallest reputation of being gentleman's game. The expression "it is not cricket" to describe that things are not being done according to rule, truly reflects the reputation of the sport.

However, since its origin as an international sport, cricket has seen many highs and lows. The body line controversy, the underhand ball sent in by Trevor Chappell against New Zealand, match fixing, doping, sledging and more recently ball tampering all are as much part of the sport as are the elements needed to play the game.

Ball tampering is as old as the cricket itself. However as long as the sport was an amateurish sport it did not matter if some one was skillfully cheating to turn the tide in his favour. However, when money started flowing in to the game and TV with 25 to 30 cameras all around the arena catching the action, the slightest of breach of rule started to come under scrutiny.

The laws of the game evolved to handle situations as they arose. A lot of fine tuning was done as cricket became centre of attraction amongst the British Commonwealth nations.

Amongst a number of laws adjusted or invented was Law 42.3 dealing with ball tampering. Under the law, the ball may only be polished without the use of an artificial substance, maybe dried with a towel or have mud removed from it.

Two incidents of ball tampering both involving Pakistan stand out that have attracted the attention of cricket administrators and the media. First incident took place in 2006 at Oval Test against England when Inzamamul Haq was the captain of Pakistan team and the other occurred more recently at Perth in Australia where Shahid Afridi was involved as captain of Pakistan team in the fifth and the final ODI against Australia.

The first cricketer who was punished for breaching the law was again a Pakistani fast bowler Waqar Yonus who was also present at Perth as bowling coach of the visiting team. Waqar Younis was the first to be banned for this offence after being found guilty of lifting the seam (if you lift the seam the ball moves sharply off the pitch) during an ODI against SA in Colombo.

The biggest tampering fiasco ever was seen during the Oval Test in 2006, which was declared forfeited by umpire Darrell Hair after Inzamam-ul Haq's Pakistan accused of tampering in the afternoon, and refused to take the field for the evening session as a mark of protest. The incident had wide-ranging ramifications.

Some other incidents recorded in cricket history are:

- John Lever (1976): England's fiery left-arm pacer became famous for what is now known as the 'Vaseline incident'. Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi accused Lever of using Vaseline to shine the ball in the third Test at Madras in 1976-77. Lever was cleared of wrongdoing but the stigma stuck.

- Wasim Akram (1992): The birth of what is today known as 'reverse swing' has its origin in the British media accusing Akram and Waqar Younis of scuffing up one side of the ball with a soft drink bottle cap, even as England batsmen fell like ninepins. Again, no substantial evidence was found.

- Michael Atherton (1994): In what became known as 'Dirtgate', TV cameras caught England captain Atherton reaching into his pocket for a substance and then rubbing it on the ball during a Lord's Test against SA. He denied it was tampering, claiming he had dirt in his pockets. Atherton was summoned to the match referee and was fined 2,000 for failing to disclose the dirt to the match referee.

- Sachin Tendulkar (2001): Tendulkar was controversially suspended for one game during India's 2001 tour of SA after match referee Mike Denness found him guilty in the second Test. TV cameras showed Tendulkar using his nails to clean the seam at Port Elizabeth.

- Rahul Dravid (2004): Dravid was caught nonchalantly rubbing a half-eaten toffee on to one side of the ball in an ODI against Zimbabwe, but match referee Clive Lloyd wasn't so sweet. He accused the player of deliberate offence. Such instances of using sweetened saliva are common, as many players claim that the sugary saliva caused by eating confectionery is more effective in polishing the ball than normal saliva.

- Pakistan (2006): Stuart Broad (2010): England's Broad trod on the ball and James Anderson was caught lifting the seam in the Cape Town Test in January, but got away scot-free.

In the sport of cricket, ball tampering is an action in which a fielder illegally alters the condition of the ball. Under Law 42, subsection 3 of the Laws of Cricket, the ball may be polished without the use of an artificial substance, may be dried with a towel if it is wet, and have mud removed from it under supervision; all other actions which alter the condition of the ball are illegal. These are usually taken to include rubbing the ball on the ground, scuffing with a fingernail or other sharp object, or tampering with the seam of the ball.

Generally, the purpose of altering the state of the ball is to achieve favorable bowling conditions. A fielder may apply a substance such as lip balm or sweetened saliva to shine one side of the ball or pick the seam of the ball to encourage more swing. Conversely, one side of the ball can be roughened by use of an abrasive or cutting surface such as boot spikes or bottle caps. The use of sweetened saliva was shown to be particularly useful in obtaining reverse swing in the 2005 Ashes Series.

The umpires are responsible for monitoring the condition of the ball, and must inspect it regularly. Where an umpire has deemed a fielder to be guilty of ball-tampering, five penalty runs are awarded to the batting side, and the ball must be immediately replaced. A bowler guilty of ball tampering can be prohibited from continuing to bowl in that innings if he is found to be repeatedly ball-tampering.

Following the conclusion of play, additional sanctions are usually brought against a ball-tamperer, as it is considered a serious offence. The captain may be equally penalized, as he is responsible for the conduct of his players on the field.

The use of foreign substances to polish the ball, while illegal, is in some corners considered to be relatively common, and passes without incident or sanction. Substances which are suggested for this purpose include hair gel, sugar and lip balm.

In addition, picking at the threads of the main seam or 'lifting' the quarter seam to aid conventional and reverse swing respectively are considered illegal. Modifying the quarter seam can be particularly difficult to detect or prove.

However, there have been a number of high-profile instances of ball tampering, particularly in international cricket due to the increase in television coverage.

The Pakistani cricket team was arguably the first to come under scrutiny when they were, together in 1992, accused of ball tampering to achieve large amounts of reverse swing. However, no evidence of wrongdoing was ever found in that series. Because of these allegations, in 1996, Imran Khan sued Ian Botham for slander and libel in a British court, and was awarded 400,000.

Former skipper of Pakistan's cricket team Waqar Younis said that he personally loved that ball tampering would be legalized. He said, "I love if ball tampering is given legal status, but it is not possible because it will trigger new legal dispute in the cricket".

He said, "It is my earnest desire that the ball tampering should be given legal status to create balance in the game but it will not happen because the cricket cannot afford opening of another Pandora box as the dispute of relaxing bowlers up to 15 degree in the bowling action has not over yet".

He said, "Let suppose, if ball tampering will be given legal status, then how the limit of tampering can be measured?"

Marcus Trescothick claimed in his autobiography that England's players achieved their prodigious amounts of reverse swing in their successful 2005 Ashes series against Australia by using saliva sweetened by eating mints.

Similarly, some believe that greasy hair products and sunscreen can mix with perspiration and the resulting oily liquid is more effective in polishing the ball.

In 2006, an alleged ball-tampering issue overshadowed a Test match between Pakistan and England, whereby Pakistan refused to take to the field for the evening session after being penalized for ball-tampering in the afternoon. The controversy was jokingly referred to as "Ovalgate".

The controversy arose when the umpires, Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, ruled that the Pakistani team had been involved in ball tampering. They awarded five penalty runs to England and a replacement ball was selected by England batsman Paul Collingwood. Play continued until the tea break, without any Pakistani protest. After the tea break, the Pakistani team, after having mutually confirmed that no ball tampering had taken place and given consideration to the severity of the implication, refused to take the field. The umpires then left the field, gave a warning to the Pakistani players, and returned once more 15 minutes later. After waiting two more minutes, the umpires removed the bails and declared England winners by forfeiture. A deal was brokered between the English and Pakistani cricket boards to allow the match to continue, and the Pakistani team did take to the field 55 minutes after the umpires first took to the field for the resumption of play. Umpires Hair and Doctrove, however, declined to continue the game maintaining their decision that Pakistan had forfeited the match by refusing to play.

The impasse continued late into the evening. Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq claimed that Darrell Hair did not inform him or the rest of his side of the reasons why the ball was replaced, and that Hair had implied that Pakistan were cheating.

The England and Wales Cricket Board refunded fourth-day spectators 40% of their ticket price (after deduction of an administration fee), and gave an automatic 100% refund to those with tickets for the fifth day. It later asked the Pakistan Cricket Board to pick up the GBP 800,000 costs of doing this, which the PCB refused to do. In March 2007, the PCB and ECB reached a settlement where Pakistan would play a Twenty20 International in England and waive their fees.

As a result of Pakistan's forfeiting of the game captain Inzamam was charged and found guilty of "bringing the game into disrepute", though he was cleared of the charges relating to "changing the condition of the ball". In January 2008, Pakistan's cricket board asked the International Cricket Council to change the official result to "match abandoned" or "match drawn" on the basis of having been subsequently cleared of ball-tampering by an ICC tribunal. In July 2008, the International Cricket Council changed the result of the match to a draw, though in October 2008 the Marylebone Cricket Club released the statement, "The ICC has no power under the laws of cricket to decide that results should be altered, whether it feels it's 'inappropriate' or otherwise".

The decision also angered former players including Michael Holding who at the time was a member of the ICC cricket committee. Having felt that Pakistan's refusal to play should not go unpunished even though they were not guilty of ball tampering, on 1 February 2009, the ICC reversed their earlier decision, and changed the match result back to a win for England.

Shahid Afridi, standing in as the Pakistani Captain, received two T20 international match ban for ball tampering in a match against Australia in January 2010. He was trying to bite the ball.